Background Covid-19, a coronavirus that originated in China in late 2019, spread globally to be declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation in March 2020. The aim of this study was to usean existing cohort of community-dwelling older adults, the Hertfordshire Cohort Study (HCS), to understand how wave one of the Covid-19 pandemic impacted UK older adults, a group particularly vulnerable to severe disease.
Methods 71 eligible participants, 39 males and 32 females (drawn from the HCS study, mean age 83.6 (2.5) years, all Caucasian, and community dwelling) were contacted by telephone and asked to complete a questionnaire administered by a trained researcher. Data collection occurred over the period of July to October 2020.
Results Over a third (37.1%) of respondents lived alone. Of the remainder, 86.4% lived with a spouse while the remaining 13.6% lived with family. Of concern, 19.7% of participants had felt they needed to go out despite not wanting to; 47.1% had heard of the NHS Volunteer Responders programme, although only 3 (4.2%) had made use of this or other support services. Almost a third (31%) of participants reported they had access to a smartphone, while 62% reported having unlimited internet access, usually using a tablet or computer. Over two thirds (69.0%) of participants rated their understanding of Covid-19 itself as good. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a large majority (88.7%) of participants said their life was different compared to before Covid-19; 80.3% had less social contact and more than half (52%) of respondents reported being less physically active than before the pandemic (and only 4% more so). However, levels of sleep, alcohol consumption and diet were reportedly generally unchanged over the timeframe surveyed.
Conclusion We have reported the experience of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic among participants of an older Caucasian community-dwelling UK cohort, highlighting the need to consider this group when developing public health interventions to support health and wellbeing, including those employing smartphone technology. Further larger studies in groups of wider socioeconomic status and more diverse racial background are indicated.
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